Community is Good Medicine
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first today until now.
— Philippians 1:3-4
Sometimes dark clouds hover over my heart. Often I cannot pinpoint why I feel blue. My typical response to such feelings is to make a to-do-list of every task facing me that day (including loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, every tiny little job), crossing off each item as I complete it, and feeling productive and mentally stronger with each accomplishment. Sometimes that trick works, but typically the blueness reminds me I need community. I have learned to call a friend with no agenda except to catch up and see how I can pray for her, sometimes learning a practical way I can encourage her as well. Community is good medicine. In the business of life, I sometimes forget that I am made for community and when I don’t intentionally cultivate community, something is off in my heart. Life-giving relationships happen in community.
Paul loved community. Community threads its way throughout the Scriptures with regular exhortations from Paul to love one another, encourage one another, serve one another, forgive one another and though not in these words: need one another. The gift of community is one of the priceless blessings God promised Abraham in Genesis 12 and 15. That same gift is ours when we love Jesus (Galatians 3:29). God promised Abraham He would create a great community out of Abraham’s seed, and that members of that community would be blessed and would be a blessing to others. God keeps this promise every time we gather as Christians and every time we offer biblical life-giving encouragement to others. When we encourage others, we become a conduit of grace that encourages those very hurting people to offer encouragement to someone else.
Other oriented life happens. Paul fondly remembers the Philippian congregation as a family that experienced great joy because their relationship to Jesus connected them to one another. Joy is a theme throughout this little letter and through these words Paul teaches this congregation how to continue to cultivate community that ultimately glorifies God. One of God’s gifts to His people is the local church family. He keeps many of His promises through His people. Our church family walked the pathway of grief with us in ways we didn’t know we needed. They became God’s hugs, shoulders to cry on, His hands that cared for our physical needs and handed us tissues when we didn’t realize tears covered our cheeks. I imagine God whispering to one of His children, “Sharon thinks I’ve abandoned her. You be my arms and hug her. You be my heart and love her. You be my hands and serve her.” Each one was a treasure of encouragement that helped turn my heart toward Him and cultivated a strong community. We need to be willing to accept the encouragement and help of others. In time, I wanted to offer others this encouragement that had been given to me. Know one day you can encourage another hurting person in a way that will equip them to offer similar help and hope to someone else.
Are you feeling blue today? Perhaps the missing treatment in your heart’s medicine cabinet is a connection with a trusted friend. Or, maybe it’s time to offer to another friend encouragement that helps turn their heart toward Jesus. I’ve asked who is in your village. One of the answers needs to be your local church body. Do you have a church family, a community you can depend on for when you are hurting, a place you receive guidance and encouragement? The time you spend with this community cultivates relationships that will equip you for the one-anothering each one of us needs. Such one-anothering encourages new life, deepens our love for one another and encourages us to pass on His love to others.
Dear Father, thank You for the gift of the covenant community. Show me how to be a channel of Your compassion in my local church so others benefit from Your presence in me.